Cross-border freight impacted by pandemic in 2020

March 9, 2021

Tyson Fisher


The COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on cross-border freight last year, with year-end data revealing an overall annual decrease affecting all modes of freight.

Released on Monday, March 8, the report shows cross-border freight dropped more than 13% from January through December compared to 2019. By value, more than $1.06 trillion of freight flowed between the borders, a loss of more than $163 billion dollars from 2019.

Cross-border truck freight declined by 10%.

Valued at nearly $695 billion dollars, truck freight between the borders was down nearly $78 billion compared with 2019. Carrying more than 65% of the freight, both Mexican and Canadian truck freight went down 10%. Truck cross-border freight went up in only seven states: Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Massachusetts, Nevada and West Virginia. Of the top 10 commodities, only edible vegetables/roots experienced an increase for the year at 11%. In fact, North American freight in Alaska and Nevada went up significantly by nearly 43% and 25%, respectively.

Annual cross-border freight (trucks)
Truck cross-border freight value by state from January through December 2020 compared to same time frame in 2019. Blue states denote an increase, while orange states denote a decrease. (Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

Beginning last March when the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, cross border freight decreased every month until a slight decrease of 0.4% in December. Vessel freight took the biggest hit with a yearly decline of 28%, followed by a nearly 27% drop in pipeline freight. Airfreight experienced the smallest decline at 6%, followed by trucking.

In Canada, trucks accounted for 58.8% of freight, up from 56% in 2019. Meanwhile in Mexico, trucks carried 71.7% of freight, an increase from 69.8% last year. Ports in Laredo, Detroit and Buffalo-Niagara Falls were the three busiest ports for truckers. Computers/parts, electrical machinery, and motor vehicles/parts were the top three commodities for cross-border truck freight.

Freight across the borders also went down in 2019 by 0.2%, with truck freight mostly unchanged that year. Cross-border freight was up for the year in 2018 by nearly 8%. In 2018, North American truck freight went up 7%. LL